One of the women who was targeted by a group of Winnipeg-born hockey players in an offensive and misogynistic group chat is speaking out to Global News.
On Wednesday, a private group chat involving NHL player Brendan Leipsic was made public on social media.
The chat, involving the Washington Capitals player, his brother Jeremey Leipsic, Florida Panthers prospect Jack Rodewald and others, contained dozens of misogynistic messages degrading women, fat-shaming them and speaking about each other’s sexual conquests.
One of the women who was central in their chat was 22-year-old Nicole Zajac, who grew up with some of the players and calls them ‘acquaintances.’
“I was shocked,” she said in an interview with Global News. “I was shocked that the people that I knew were talking about me this way.”
For years Zajac has made her living growing a following on Instagram and dedicating her social media page to body-positivity and making women feel good about themselves.
So when she saw her pictures with “oink, oink” comments made by the men, or calling her fat, she was hurt.
“There is so much more to you than your looks,” she said. “You are worth so much more than the number on the scale.”
“I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am… to accept my own body. I’ve been sent multiple hateful messages in my lifetime. But for each hateful message, I probably get 1,000 positives.”
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Imagine a world where name calling, shaming, and bullying didn’t exist. A world where words didn’t inflict pain on others. Because words are a different kind of pain. Pain that sits with us, for moments too long. But this is the world we live in. There are more than a handful of words that I have been labeled as in my lifetime. Words that others chose to define me as. Words that I chose to define myself as after I hear them often enough. It took some time for me to realize my worth. How you ask? I took back my power. I took the anger and the hatred towards myself, the hatred that others created, and I turned it into passion. Passion for finding beauty within my body, regardless of what others think or say. So this one goes out to all the ones who have ever tried to tear me down. You only fuelled my fire.
Late Wednesday night, Leipsic posted an apology on social media and said his account had been hacked.
The Washington Capitals and the National Hockey League released their own statements condemning the actions of the players involved.
While a number of local Winnipeg women were on the receiving end of the men’s comments, they also targeted current and former teammates, their wives and girlfriends.
In response to a photo posted by the Vancouver Canucks that featured Tanner Pearson greeting his young son and his wife, Meaghan Pearson, Leipsic insulted the appearance of Pearson’s wife.
Leipsic also made comments about the appearance of Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid’s girlfriend as well as sexual comments and criticism of the appearances of other women.
“We’re all different. We all have different bodies, different unique things about ourselves,” she said.
“Instead of not celebrating them and hearing hateful messages about yourself… we can take away from this and take a step towards all of us loving our bodies.”
Zajac said two of the men involved in the chats have reached out to her to apologize after the private messages were made public. She is hoping this incident can be used as a lesson and has a message to all of the women who were targetted.
“I hope this progresses us in a way to celebrate our bodies and our diversity with the world because if it doesn’t we are just getting upset for no reason,” Zajac said.
“Something positive should come out of this.”